Hundreds Turn Out for Clean Air Rally & Hearing in Denver
More than 200 people rallied recently in downtown Denver before packing a Public Utilities Commission hearing. The PUC called the hearing to solicit feedback on implementing Colorado's Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act and the plan by Xcel energy to retire 903 megawatts of existing coal plant operations in the state.
The rally was organized by a coalition of conservation groups including the Sierra Club, along with health organizations, renewable energy businesses, and natural gas companies.
"Coal industry activists held a smaller rally of their own just across the street and tried unsuccessfully to crash our rally," says Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign organizer Roger Singer. "But we had the mike and we kept them at bay."
At the PUC hearing, commissioners alternated between pro and con speakers. "Forty-plus coalition members spoke in support of Xcel's plan," Singer says, "and we urged the PUC to retire the 903 MW of coal even sooner, build one less gas plant than proposed, and put more emphasis on renewable energy and energy efficiency."
Media coverage of the rally and hearing included the Denver Post, Associated Press, KUNC radio, and local TV coverage. The Post ran a ¼ page photo featuring Sierra Club volunteer Donna Bonetti, the Club's Beyond Coal t-shirts, and activists wearing air masks that Singer brought to the rally.
"We ripped off the masks in unison when our master of ceremonies, state Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, gave the 'Our solution is…' cue," says Singer. (Carroll is pictured in top photo, at right with microphone.) "Former state senator Polly Baca was right on target with her remarks on low-income community health impacts, and UC Boulder student Scott Wooley revved up the crowd with a youth message."
Singer gives a shout-out to UC Boulder student leaders who got 32 students and Sierra Club members onto the Sierra Club bus to the rally, and staff at Environment Colorado and Colorado Environmental Coalition for their great work organizing the rally, for providing speakers, and for their testimony at the PUC hearing.
Two days before the rally, the coalition released a poll showing that 79 percent of Coloradans support a switch from coal to renewable energy and natural gas. The rally was held just three weeks after an EPA coal ash hearing where the Sierra Club helped turn out 150 people.
Learn more about the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.